Like any creature with blood, ferrets are prone to flea infestations. Even the cleanest, most well kept furry friends can sometimes pick up the occasional blood sucking external parasites. Let’s look at what you can do to help kill off fleas and prevent them from coming back.
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Once you have fleas in your home, it can seem like they will never go away. Your pet stops itching and everything seems fine and then suddenly you spot one of the jumping insects on your arm and realize they probably never left in the first place.
The biggest issue with fleas is that they breed insanely fast. They lay eggs on their host (your pet or even your own body) and once those hatch the fleas hop off into the environment where they begin breeding and laying more eggs, growing the infestation exponentially.
There are a ton of different flea products on the market targeted towards cats and dogs but, in general, the market for fighting ferret fleas is a bit lacking. Due to this, many people opt for do it yourself flea remedies, some of which are fantastic and work quite well while others are outright unsafe and concerning.
In general, most vets recommend using a flea shampoo and bathing your ferret. Bathe your pet once or twice a week for a few months until the are no longer itching or showing signs of infection. Once the fleas are killed off you can stop bathing so regularly; it is a good idea to only bathe them occasionally when not dealing with fleas or other issues since frequent bathing can dry out their skin. Only use products that are safe for ferrets and meant for their sensitive skin.
Alternatively, some people opt for natural methods. None of these will kill fleas in the same way the shampoo will but they will act as deterrents, removing the fleas from your pet. These are most suitable for outside ferrets, as indoor usage will just push the fleas into the environment, where they will then breed and spread before returning to your pet once the natural remedy has worn off.
Some veterinarians recommend using flea dust or creams to help, as well. With small animals like ferrets it is a good idea to get a vet’s opinion before treating anything since their respiratory systems and skin are so sensitive.
One of the best ways to prevent flea infestation is to simply clean your cage on a regular basis. Outside ferrets are more prone to flea infestation. The best prevention for outdoor ferrets is to use a de-flea product on the entire yard and use a flea preventative serum or cream product regularly to prevent them from accessing the creature’s body.
Indoor ferrets can still get fleas, though these are a different genus than those who are found outdoors. Ctenocephalides felis and Ctenocephalides canis are found on cats and dogs, respectively, and can be spread to ferrets. Flea baths and regular preventative creams and gels can help keep these nasty parasites off of your ferret, as can using preventatives on your other pets, as well.
There is a third type of flea located solely in the Southwest of the United States which has recently tested positive for Yersinia pestis bacteria. This strain of bacteria is the same strain that caused the black death, also known as the bubonic plague. This disease can be transmitted across mammal species through flea bites and is quite serious, adding to the urgency of flea prevention and treatment.
It is recommended to always see a vet concerning the care of ferrets and other small animals since they have very delicate respiratory systems and sensitive skin that can be irritated by a lot of over the counter treatments.
With flea treatment, you can use store bought products to treat your ferret but there are some things you should entirely avoid to preserve the health and comfort of your pet. Most sprays and all dips are believed to be unsafe for ferrets since they irritate the lining of the respiratory system and can cause prolonged issues and even death.
Other products like BioSpot and Defend that are placed on the nape of the neck are not safe due to containing chemicals that are toxic for ferrets. It is best to go through a vet for preventative products to ensure you are getting something that is safe for your pet and will cause minimal discomfort.
Can fleas make your ferret sick?
Unfortunately, fleas can make most animals ill if they are exposed. On the mild end of the spectrum, your pet may experience an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva, resulting in hair loss and itching, along with pustules and abscesses that require medical intervention and antibiotic treatment. Additionally, ferrets can become anemic which, if left untreated, can result in some more severe issues including death.
More severely, fleas can transmit other parasites like tapeworms to your pet. Ferrets infected with tapeworms or other internal parasites can become malnourished rather quickly and suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Tapeworms can also cause rapid weight loss, resulting in your pet becoming underweight and more prone to temperature change related illnesses and other illnesses due to a weakening of the immune system.
Fleas can also transmit illnesses like the bubonic plague and skin rashes, resulting in more complications and some intense discomfort for your pet.
Does tea tree oil kill fleas?
Tea tree oil can and likely will kill fleas. Despite this, many vets do not like it being used on small animals outside of in commercial products since it is difficult to dilute properly at home for pet usage. Undiluted or under diluted tea tree oil can cause topical burns and other issues and can be toxic if ingested by your pet. Due to this, it is recommended to not use tea tree oil unless advised by your veterinarian.
How do I know if my ferret has fleas?
If you notice your ferret scratching more than usual, chances are it may have fleas. Blow on your ferret’s fur to expose its skin and look for any reddish brown or black spots moving about. Alternatively, you could run a flea comb through their fur. This device will catch any fleas and remove them but should not be viewed as a treatment; only a diagnosis tool.
If you notice what looks to be dirt on your ferret’s stomach or shoulder blades, you have likely found “flea dirt”, a term used to describe flea excrement or poop. This is a sign that there is an active infestation and should trigger you to begin treatment.
Other signs of a flea infestation can include scabbing, hair loss, and a host of other dermal issues. Chances are if you think they may have fleas, they probably do and it is best to err on the side of caution and begin treatment as soon as possible.
Ferrets can get fleas at any point in their life, no matter if they are an inside or outside pet. If you think they have fleas, chances are they do and it is time to set up a vet consultation to seek out a treatment method that is safe and effective for your furry friend.